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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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06.27.07

Burnt Crust

Bites: News and Miscellany


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According to Chicago magazine’s Dish newsletter:

Rebecca Charles, the owner of Pearl Oyster Bar, a popular seafood joint in New York’s West Village, has sued her former sous-chef Ed McFarland over intellectual property rights, and the juicy story made the front page of The New York Times Wednesday. Charles accuses McFarland of copying “each and every element” of Pearl in his Ed’s Lobster Bar (in SoHo). Her grievances include design elements, but the heart of the case swirls around McFarland’s caesar salad, which Charles insists came from her own recipe. At the same time, Charles admits that Pearl was inspired by a low-key spot in San Francisco and that the salad recipe in dispute came from her mother, who got it from a defunct Los Angeles restaurant. The outcome of the case remains to be seen, but we called a few local chefs to get their reactions to the controversy—as it turned out, none were particularly sympathetic to Ms. Charles.

Here is what Crust chef/owner Michael Altenberg said:

“Look at all the people who worked under Jean Banchet [founder of the recently closed legendary Le Français]. A lot of what we do when cooking straightforward French is stuff we learned from Jean Banchet. He could say we stole his intellectual property. But instead I think it makes him feel as though he’s got a lineage. Banchet in turn learned from Fernand Point.”

I guess it’s no surprise Altenberg would be liberal with his idea of other people’s intellectual property, considering there is some dispute as to where he got the name for his new organic pizza parlor. According to this reader story by Mike Sula, Charles Foulkes who was an early partner (though not legally) in Altenberg’s pizza venture said that he and Altenberg had a “gentleman’s agreement” that Foulkes would receive something for Altenberg’s use of the name Crust. In a letter he sent to his customers that was later posted on a friend’s blog, Foulkes wrote, “Michael refuses to formalize the agreement and offer promised compensation for the name Crust. Michael gave us his word that he would not use the name Crust without our blessing, and now he has.”

There’s a lot more to the story (read Sula’s piece), but if you ask me, it sounds like there’s a character pattern here.

2 Comments on "Burnt Crust"

ab

I came away from the Sula article thinking Foulkes had nothing but sour grapes and his own lack of business savvy to blame…



Michael Nagrant

There are definitely two ways to look at it. I suppose everything should always be in a written contract, but in my book, there’s also the social contract of man, which says, you honor personal liberty etc, and taking the dude’s business name and using him for publicity, and then eventually cutting him out doesn’t feel right to me.



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